Longue Pointe Asylum
|Longue Pointe Asylum|
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Founded in 1873, Saint-Jean de Dieu Hospital was born from an agreement between the Government of Quebec and the Congregation of the Sisters of Providence, who were entrusted the task of clothing, lodging and caring of the mentally handicapped. Sister Thérèse de Jésus was the soul and director of this important healthcare facility in Quebec.
The Sisters of Providence already had a great deal of experience in working with mental patients. Mother Émilie-Gamelin took in a number of them at the Asile de la Providence, as early as 1845. In 1852, their Saint-Isidore farm was renovated to accommodate 17 patients. In 1863, an annex named Saint-Jean de Dieu was built and added to the Sister’s convent in the east end of Montreal.
The construction of the Saint-Jean de Dieu Hospital, then known as the Longue Pointe Lunatic Asylum, would be done on this very site. In April 1874, the Sisters commissioned architect Benjamin Lamontagne to design and build the asylum, north of Notre-Dame St. It is interesting to know that Louis Riel was committed to the Asylum at Longue Pointe for a few months in 1876.
In 1890 a fire that killed more than 80 people reduced a large part of the hospital to an empty shell. Wooden pavilions were quickly erected to accommodate the 1,200 patients. In 1888, more land was added which brought the property of the Sisters of Providence to a total of 800 acres. In 1896, flooding of the asylum caused a temporary relocation of the facility. In 1897 the Sisters hired architect Hippolyte Bergeron to rebuild the hospital. It would be composed of 2 rows of seven 40′ x 200′ pavilions arranged on both sides of a broad avenue and connected by a system of corridors, 10 ft wide and 600 feet long. The units on the eastern side were for men, and those on the western side for women. There were service buildings, a kitchen and a 6-storey high water tower, holding 95,000 gallons of water, located behind the main lodge which housed the administration. The Dominique Bédard Pavilion (formerly the wing for men) remains the most eloquent witness.
In 1897, Saint-Jean de Dieu Hospital became an autonomous civic municipality, as well as a canonical parish of the diocese of Montreal. At this time, there were 183 sisters, 141 lay people, three doctors, two chaplains and 1,579 patients. Many schools would be born from this institution: a psychiatric nursing school, a school for nurse’s aids, a medical teaching school, the Émilie-Tavernier school (for patients), a medical technology school and patient care courses.
In 1975, after more than 100 years in existence, Saint-Jean de Dieu began to see a gradual reduction in the Congregation’s personnel, following a re-organization of the hospital’s services. The hospital was then renamed Louis-H. Lafontaine Hospital in 1976.
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